HC Deb 17 March 1890 vol 342 cc1000-1
MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the observations made at the Central Criminal Court on the 6th instant by the Lord Chief Justice of England, relative to a sentence of two years' imprisonment with hard labour imposed by Sir William Hardman at the Surrey Sessions, for the offence of passing fictitious cheques, that he "was sure that no Judge could have passed such a sentence," and that two years' imprisonment with hard labour was a punishment of "terrible severity;" whether it is the fact that whilst this punishment of "terrible severity" is rarely, if ever, given by the superior Judges, it is frequently imposed by Courts of Quarter Sessions; in how many cases has this sentence been imposed during the last five years at the old Surrey Sessions (now County of London, south side); and whether he will take any steps, by legislation or otherwise, to secure conformity by Courts of Quarter Sessions to the practice of the superior Judges in this matter?


Yes, Sir, my attention has been called to the observations referred to; but I do not find that the Lord Chief Justice said he "was sure that no Judge could have passed such a sentence." The judicial statistics do not discriminate between sentences passed at Assizes and Quarter Sessions, nor between sentences of two years and one year and upwards; and I am not in possession of the necessary information to enable me to give an accurate reply to the second paragraph. I have no facts before me to justify the suggestion that the sentences of Courts of Quarter Sessions are more severe or vary more than those of superior Judges, and it is not the intention of the Government to propose legislation on the subject. I am informed that out of more than 2,800 prisoners tried at the Surrey Sessions, during the last five years, 33 have been sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour, and of these, 10 were gross cases of indecent assault on children, boys, and women.